Coleman gets 1,000th point, but Fullerton gets the overtime win in Big West opener, 63-61

UH senior guard Noel Coleman became the 17th player in school history to score 1,000 career points Saturday, reaching the milestone with a reverse layup in the first half against Cal State Fullerton. (Chris Kadooka photo)

On a festive Saturday night when the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball program celebrated its 2016 Big West Championship and senior guard Noel Coleman’s 1,000th career point, Cal State Fullerton played spoiler again and came away with the victory in overtime, 63-61.

A supportive and vocal “New Year’s Eve Party” crowd of 3,688 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched DJ Brewton score a game-high 17 points — including the go-ahead basket with 1:20 remaining in OT — and grab four rebounds with two steals as the Titans improved to 8-6 overall and 1-1 in the Big West. Bernardo da Silva had another double-double (15 points, 10 boards) and Justin McKoy added 12 points and eight rebounds to lead the Warriors, who fell to 8-5, 0-1.

After Brewton drained a baseline hook shot to put Cal State Fullerton up, 61-60, UH could not convert on its ensuing possession. Forward John Mikey Square then scored on a muscle layup to make it 63-60 with 26.2 ticks showing on the clock, but nine seconds later Hawai’i point guard JoVon McClanahan was fouled on a 3-point attempt.

He missed the first two foul shots before squeaking in the third, cutting it to 63-61, and the Warriors got the ball back when Brewton missed two free throws with 0:15.4 showing on the clock. After a timeout, UH worked the ball to McKoy in the left corner, but his 3-point attempt went way long and could not be rebounded as time expired.

“Disappointing loss, credit to Fullerton,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “Hard to overcome 17 turnovers and the free throw deal (12 of 21, 57.1 percent), both of which have been creeping up on us. In big games, close battles like this, we’ve got to be better in that. We’re in one of those moments as a group that will test us, and if we are what we think we are, we will be fine. But it certainly hurts in the moment, and there’s things we need to look at and do to break through. It’s a long year, it’s a gauntlet, and this was one game of 20.

“And each game in league, you see it everywhere — each game is a fight. So sometimes it’s those little things, in this case it was the turnovers and the free throws and the way we played in the first half (down 27-21).”

Things looked good for the Warriors in the early going, with Titans’ leading scorer Max Jones out for the game for undisclosed reasons and several open looks materializing against a usually tight defense. But the shots were not falling: Hawai’i was just 34.6 percent (9 of 26) from the field in the first half, including a dismal 1 for 10 from 3-point range.

Cal State Fullerton capitalized by turning a 12-11 deficit midway through into a 22-14 lead as Vincent Lee’s putback hook shot capped an 11-2 run with 4:47 remaining. The only Warriors basket during that stretch came on Coleman’s reverse layup with 6:19 on the clock, giving him his 1,000th career point. He is the 17th player in school history to reach that milestone, and the first since Christian Stanhardinger in 2014.

At halftime, former UH Director of Basketball Operations Jamie Smith was presented with his 2016 Big West Championship ring. Smith, who is best known for executing crowd-pleasing “theme nights” that rose the spirit of the home game atmosphere, has been coaching abroad the past seven years and returned to Hawai’i this past week for the first time since then on an extended layover.

The Warriors opened the second half with a 10-2 surge and da Silva’s layup three minutes in put UH ahead, 31-29. The game stayed tight from that point, and da Silva’s putback with 1:21 left in regulation gave the Warriors a 56-53 lead.

Brewton, an All-Southwest Athletic Conference transfer from Alcorn State, sank a free throw eight seconds later and then tied it at 56-56 on an acrobatic double-pump reverse layup with 42 seconds remaining.

McClanahan drained a halfcourt shot just after the horn at regulation, sending the crowd into a frenzy, but a video review showed the ball still in his hand when the clock hit 0:00.

Hawai’i took a 60-59 lead with 2:29 left in OT on freshman Tom Beattie’s driving layup, but that would be the Warriors’ final basket of the night as the Titans’ defense tightened up down the stretch, as usual.

Cal State Fullerton has beaten UH in overtime in three of the past four meetings, including a 62-60 victory in the first round of last March’s Big West Tournament in Henderson, Nev.

“Play defense — that’s what overtime comes (down) to,” Coleman said. “Whichever team plays better defense comes out on top, and we didn’t come out on top.”

The Warriors will hit the road this week for games at CSU Bakersfield on Thursday and Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

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